Sustainable and toxin-free living

Sustainable and toxin-free living


Plastic-Free Activewear? Here are 15 Brands That Use Natural Instead of Synthetic Fibers

Image by Ripple Yoga Wear
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If you end your workouts feeling itchy, rashy, and uncomfortable, it’s time to break-up with synthetic activewear.

Plastic-based workout clothing is not breathable, non-biodegradable, and heavily contributes to the use of petroleum. Not only are the polyester, spandex, and nylon that make up most of the available activewear bad for the environment, they’re not good for your body, either.

In addition to trapping odors and sweat, the dyes used on polyester (azobenzene disperse dyes) are known skin sensitizers, according to Alden Wicker’s book To Dye For. And the irritation doesn’t end there. The chemicals from the clothing migrate to your skin even faster when it’s skintight and you’re sweating.

Fortunately, there are a lot of brands that use natural materials and ethical manufacturing practices. By shopping from low-impact activewear lines, you can avoid contributing to unsustainable plastic production, skip shedding microplastics, and find comfortable and quality workout clothing all at the same time.

Because activewear has to have some stretch to it, and plant-based alternatives aren’t quite fully accessible yet, some of the brands we’ve listed below use up to 10% synthetics—but never more than that.

Here’s what to look out for when shopping for plastic-free activewear:

Natural Materials: There are a lot of great natural and organic materials that are great for working out in while being kind to your skin. We love merino and alpaca wool, which are both thermoregulating, moisture-wicking and naturally breathable — without being itchy! You can also find clothing made with only organic cotton, or a blend with plant-based Tencel for stretch. Avoid viscose and any “performance” blends that aren’t at least 90% based on natural materials.

Skin-Safe Dyes: To avoid unsafe and non-toxic dyes (such as the azo-disperse dyes mentioned above) look for brands that use natural and low-impact dyes. To be sure that a brand’s dyes are truly skin-safe, check for labels such as bluesign and Oeko-Tex.

Traceable Supply Chain: To be sure your activewear was made safely and ethically without any harmful chemicals, look for brands that trace and frequently audit their supply chains. Look for ethical certifications such as Fair Trade for reassurance that a brand maintains sustainable and humanitarian practices throughout the entire production process.

Plastic-Free Packaging: In the interest of avoiding plastic use, look for brands that use compostable and biodegradable packaging.

1. Community Clothing

What we like: Community clothing makes 100% plastic-free activewear, including shorts, tanks, and shirts. It uses organic cotton and cotton thread and manufacturers in the U.K. from spinning to garment making. It sources its organic cotton for its sports wear from a family-owned farm in California. In addition to creating safe and durable clothing, the brand is dedicated to increasing textile jobs in the U.K.

Price Range: $36-$87

 

2. Iron Roots

What we like: This Dutch sportswear brand is committed to making plastic-free activewear that combines design, functionality, and sustainability. It uses Oeko-Tex-certified hemp, organic cotton, and Tencel, and maintains close relationships with its local factory partners in Greece, North Macedonia, and Portugal. The brand minimizes textile waste through intentional design and cut-and-sew practices, and offers discounts to customers who send back their worn-out products for recycling.

Price Range: $50-$105

 

 

3. Icebreaker

What we like: Icebreaker uses merino wool to create natural performance alternatives for a synthetic-free workout. Its activewear, which includes sports bras, t-shirts, tanks, shorts, outer layers, and leggings, is designed to be versatile and long-lasting. (Learn why merino wool isn’t itchy and makes for good activewear.) The brand fosters long-term relationships with its merino sheep farmers and traces its supply chain to ensure ethical practices from beginning to end.

Our review: Icebreaker makes amazing hiking layers, which often aren’t itchy and work well even on a hot day, plus are minimalist enough to pass for everyday wear. The sports bra is super supportive and stylish as well.

Price: $60-$330

 

4. Tripulse

What we like: Tripulse designs timeless and sustainable performance apparel. Its 100% Tencel tops are hypoallergenic and odor resistant with bluesign and Oeko-Tex-certified dyes and finishes. Its Tencel is sourced in Austria, produced in a GOTS-certified partner factory, and all products are designed and ethically made in Europe within Reach standards. Some high-performance garments contain a percentage of Roica, a compostable version of elastane.

Our Review: Our tester absolutely loves this tee. It’s soft, comfortable, and can be worn a few times between washing (though she finds herself washing it after about two wears because she tends to sweat at the gym pretty heavily.) She would definitely love to have this in more colors to wear alongside her other everyday essentials, since there really is no comfier tee for her. She says its a perfect balance of fabric, cut, and style.

Price: $51-$60

 

5. Arms of Andes

What we like: This single-origin outdoor apparel brand makes activewear with 100% alpaca wool. Every stage of production takes place in Peru, from the family-run farms of the Andes to (compostable!) packaging to ensure ethical methods throughout its supply chain. Its “Leave No Trace” collection features biodegradable clothing colored with natural and low-impact dyes.

Price: $60-$195

 

6. Asquith

What we like: Asquith makes soft, durable, and comfortable activewear with bamboo, organic cotton, and its trademark Oeko-Tex-certified blend Bambor. Its apparel is designed to be multi-functional and timeless to easily fit in your wardrobe. Its materials are sourced in Turkey, China, and collections are made in a GOTS-certified factory in southern Turkey. It uses plastic-free packaging with compostable and recyclable mailers and garment bags.

Our Review: Our editor has been using and enjoying Asquith products for several years. It lasts a long time, and the classic and minimalist style works not only for the gym, but for travel and just hanging out, too.

Price: $35-$75

 

7. MATE the Label

What we like: This LA brand makes activewear for the casual gym goer with natural and non-toxic materials. It upholds a strict list of restricted substances to make sure no toxins enter its supply chain. Mate uses organic yarns and dyes to make comfortable styles for every season with no more than 8% spandex. Its organic cotton is grown in India, and all garments are knitted, sewn, and dyed with low-impact dyes.

Our review: MATE’s cotton bras and bike shorts are flattering and supportive enough for C-cup girlies. Like with all organic cotton workout clothing, the lighter colors do show sweat. But honestly, our testers haven’t cared.

Price: $58-$203

 

8. PAKA

What we like: Paka is a certified B Corp and natural outdoor apparel brand. It uses Tencel and alpaca wool for its activewear, which includes lightweight and breathable workout tanks, joggers, and t-shirts. Its alpaca wool is sourced from family-run farms in the Andes mountains, and is dyed and knit locally by Peruvian artisans.

Our Review: Paka sent our tester a sports bra and a pair of joggers. The sports bra is supportive, but not the most secure for running. They didn’t experience any spillage, but there was quite a bit of bounce. The joggers are breathable and comfortable, and make for a comfortable low-key workout. These pieces are definitely preferred for hiking endeavors, but can absolutely be used in your daily light workouts.

Price: $45-$125

 

9. Cottonique

What we like: Cottonique is a hypoallergenic and GOTS-certified brand that makes clothing completely free of spandex and latex. It imports its organic cotton from the U.S., China, and India, and manufactures its garments in the Philippines to make basics and activewear that are breathable, bleach- and dye-free, and absorbent. Its athletic collection includes sports bras, t-shirts, shorts, and socks.

Price: $22-$50

 

10. Organique Studio

What we like: Organique Studio is a vegan brand that creates sustainable luxury lounge and activewear. Its apparel is created to be both fashionable and functional with a sense of individual style. Organique uses GOTS-certified organic cotton and Tencel for its hypoallergenic tanks, shorts, pants, and bodysuits. All products are designed and manufactured in Portugal, and the brand works with Noissue to send its orders in compostable mailers.

Price: $51.20-$102.39

Use code ORGECULT15 for 15% off.

 

11. Buddha Pants

What we like: Buddha Pants designs organic and comfortable garments for an active lifestyle. It offers a wide selection of 100% cotton yoga harem pant and jumpsuit styles (that each have at least one pocket!) The brand manufactures in Miami Beach and in Ho Chi Minh. It uses plant-based dyes for its bold prints, and each pair is designed to be worn multiple ways and pack into their back pocket for versatile travel-friendly apparel.

Watch out for: It’s unclear where the brand sources its cotton from.

Our review: Sure, this is a very hippy style that will make you stand out in a typical yoga studio. But the pants are very comfy with a wide range of movement and great for hot weather, or when you want something a little more modest. Plus, it’s the best way to go 100% synthetic free.

Price: $79.95-$99.95

 

 

12. Wellicious

What we like: Wellicious is a Cradle to Cradle-certified yoga brand that uses organic cotton and compostable elastane to create its yoga tops, leggings, and bras. The brand sources its organic cotton in Peru, and all of its clothing is manufactured in facilities throughout Europe to limit the distance of its supply chain and maintain fair labor standards.

Watch out for: While the elastane is compostable, there’s more than 10% of it, and it could still be a bit irritating to the skin for those who are sensitive.

Our Review: Our sensitive skin tester tried out the diamond white control bra. She loved the cut and how supportive it was, but she did experience a bit of irritation. While the elastane in the seams is well covered, there’s a fair bit blended into the fabric that caused her to itch. She washed it a couple of times with non-toxic detergent, and experienced less irritation. She plans to continue to wear it, but with a thick, coconut-based moisturizer underneath.

Price Range: $63-$126

 

13. Ripple Yoga Wear

What we like: Created by a fashion and textile designer, Ripple makes comfy activewear with modal, cotton, and vegan, non-toxic dyes. The brand is based and manufactures in Israel, and all of its textiles and labor meet European standards. Its collection of yoga wear includes jumpsuits, shorts, yoga pants, tops, and accessories.

Watch out for: It’s unclear where it sources its materials from.

Price Range: $9-$189

 

14. Pangaia

What we like: Pangaia is an apparel and material science brand that makes stretchy sportswear from bio-based materials. Its collection of sports bras, leggings, and tops are made from its “PLNTNYLN,” a plant-based nylon alternative made from ingredients like corn and castor beans, and treated with a natural peppermint oil to prevent the growth of odorizing bacteria. The certified B-corp regularly audits its factories and traces its material suppliers.

Watch out for: Even though the nylon is bio-based, it may still cause irritation to people who are sensitive.

Price Range: $60-$125

 

15. Groceries Apparel

What we like: Groceries Apparel upcycled fruit and vegetable scraps from local grocers and restaurants in Los Angeles to create vivid and non-toxic activewear and apparel. It designs, manufactures, and dyes everything in-house. Groceries uses GOTS-certified organic cotton and Tencel to create stretchy and breathable workout sets that only contain up to 8% spandex.

Watch out for: There have been numerous complaints about orders not being confirmed or received, customers never getting their money back, and inconsistent sizing. It’s unclear where the brand sources its materials from.

Our Review: Our tester could smell the nice and earthy vegetable dye as soon as she opened the package. Fortunately, the light scent stayed a bit when washed with fragrance-free, plant-based detergent. The leggings themselves had very little to offer in the way of stretch, but fit perfectly and were very comfortable to wear around for the day. The fit was good and very high-waisted and flattering in the right places. Overall, she thinks she will definitely be adding these to her leggings carousel for yoga and pilates classes.

Price: $36-$98

If this post was helpful to you, then check out the first and only book on this topic: To Dye For: How Toxic Fashion is Making Us Sick — And How We Can Fight Back, by EcoCult founder Alden Wicker.

 

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